Governor Kate Brown, along with state fire and emergency officials, presented their fourth wildfire update since the blazes started last week, and the news is both promising and disturbing.
First, the positive news: Cooler, more humid weather is predicted to continue moving through the state this week which will help firefighters set up the containment lines needed to stop the growth of multiple blazes. According to Doug Grafe, Chief of Fire Protection at the Oregon Department of Forestry, some good progress is being made in that regard. It's also promising that the Riverside fire—the biggest blaze that roared through Clackamas County and has so far burned 450,000 acres—is being slowed by firefighters who are now able to set up multiple containment lines in the area.
However, Grafe was also quick to note that the rain that was predicted to come tonight will not arrive until Thursday. And that change in weather might also include lightning storms in the east side of the state, which could cause additional fires. Winds may also be picking up in south central Oregon later in the week, another component that concerns Grafe. On top of all this, the current blanket of heavy smoke and fog has stifled efforts to get firefighting planes into the air to extinguish flames.
At least 10 people have died in the state wildfires so far, while 22 people are still missing, according to Brown. Andrew Phelps, Director of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, added that the state is working hard to provide timely and accurate information, but "rumors can cost lives" and that Oregonians should think twice before spreading unverified information on social media. The latest verified news from the state can be found at wildfire.oregon.gov.
The humid weather conditions that will help firefighters contain blazes is also predicted to keep heavy, hazardous smoke hanging over Portland, at least through Thursday and perhaps into the weekend. Health authorities are urging people in these hazardous zones to stop working outdoors, stay inside, and avoid strenuous activity—this especially pertains to those who are pregnant, the elderly, children, or anyone who suffers from breathing problems.
Brown noted that progress is being made in setting up relief funds for Oregonians who have been impacted by the wildfires, the number of FEMA personnel who are now in the state, and the outpouring of assistance that's being offered from all over the country and Canada. The governor also asked that, if any Oregonians have the means to do so, they should consider donating to reputable agencies that can deliver support to those who need it. (Here's a great list if you're looking for ways to help.)
Stay tuned to the Mercury for more information and updates as they come available.